Brickies Earning £100k As 'Brawn Drain' Hits
A shortage of skilled labourers has helped push pay packets for the country's top bricklayers past the £100,000 mark, according to industry experts.
Recruitment firm Deverell Smith and building consultants EC Harris told The Times the recruitment problem was so acute it was threatening to damage efforts to boost housebuilding.
The firms warned that an exodus of labourers in the wake of the financial crisis meant that the construction industry was struggling to recruit enough bricklayers, joiners, stone-fixers and plasterers now the recovery was gathering momentum.
Australia and New Zealand were thought to have been the main beneficiaries of the emigration and EC Harris said that a decline in apprenticeships meant that the void would have to be filled by migrant workers from Eastern Europe.
Demand for construction workers had risen 125% since 2008, the newspaper said, when industry output was largely stopped in its tracks by the credit crunch and resulting recession.
Economic recovery and Government schemes such as Help to Buy, which was launched a year ago, have aided the mortgage market and prompted builders to begin work on their huge land banks to help meet needs for new homes.
But the firms believe problems in the supply chain could undo the boom in property building, with costs rising by up to 7% this year alone.
While the most experienced contract bricklayers are now earning up to £100,000 annually, EC Harris said, material prices were also on the up as manufacturers struggled to recover production.
Mark Farmer, its head of residential, added: "The construction industry is grappling with a real capacity constraint issue at the moment.
"The cyclical 'boom and bust' nature of the sector has led to a gradual attrition of long-term skilled workforce, whether bricklayers or plasterers or experienced project managers.
"The recession of the last 5-6 years has seen many leave the industry through choice or natural ageing of the workforce and the level of new recruits is just not keeping up.
"What is needed is not casual labour but a trained and experienced workforce which takes many years to generate, so we are now facing a structural capacity issue that cannot be immediately remedied."
He cited volatility in day rates for skilled craftsmen as evidence of the supply and demand imbalance for labour.
Mr Farmer said "During the recession, bricklayer day rates fell by up to 50% as work dried up.
"We are now experiencing a massive rebound as demand outstrips availability of the very best tradesmen.
"Day rates in London are up to £150-£200 day and those that are particularly experienced and industrious, laying up to 1,000 bricks a day, can earn the equivalent of £100,000 a year on an output bonus basis."
He called for the construction industry to work harder to attract the best young talent and invest in off-site manufacture and pre-fabrication of housing to reduce the need for on-site labour.